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Although the rate of people who use opioid drugs has skyrocketed recently, a National Institutes of Health white paper finds little evidence for the effectiveness of opioid drugs for treating long-term chronic pain.

The paper, released Jan. 13, is the final report of a seven-member panel convened by the NIH last September. The panel found that many of the studies used to justify the prescription of these drugs were either poorly conducted or of an insufficient duration.
In a news release, David Steffens, MD, MHS, chairman of the psychiatry department at UConn Health and one of the authors of the study, said, “There’s no research-based evidence that these medicines are helpful.” Yet prescriptions for opioid drugs have more than tripled in the past 20 years, with more than 219 million prescriptions written in 2011, according to the study.

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